Of course lots of people will recommend Boracay, which is a great choice for fabulous beaches. But in my opinion, the mountains of Luzon was one of the nicest holidays I ever had.
Nestled in the Mountain Province, is a village called Sagada. It is populated by Philippine aboriginals who’re quite separatist from the rest of the country due to the fact that the village, and those nearby, are relatively isolated because the mountain roads aren’t that easily travelled. (Much higher than you’d imagine)
Sagada is surrounded by caves, some of them burial caves, some that need guides to enter, there are plenty of great hiking excursions to nearby even more traditional villages, deep ravines, rice terraces, and a leisurely mountain atmosphere. When I was there in 99, they didn’t have phones in the village yet!
The food is incomparable to other parts of the PPines that I’ve visited. If youre a veggie, it’s especially great, as most of what’s served there is freshly grown in that area. There’s also a cafe that makes the best yogurt this side of Greece and you can have it with fresh mountain berries and honey.
There’s a curfew on the town, last I heard, from 9pm, but after a full day of hiking and ‘smoking’ and eating delicious fresh meals, you won’t mind. You wake with the chickens at 7am…
It’s amazingly cheap there as well. Prepare to spend far less than 200NT per day including your guest house. Btw, the guest houses are clean and cozy. When I was there, a room with my friend cost 80 per night.
To get there: Take a bus from Manila to Banaue (also a lovely place, but don’t waste as much time there because it’s touristy due to the 2000 year old rice paddies etc, but it’s nothing compared to Sagada. However, you CAN purchase lovely wood carvings there…
From Banaue, take a jeepney to Bontoc, and from Bontoc, another jeepney to Sagada. The jeepneys total about 3-4 hours travel from Banaue–>Sagada. Manila to Banaue–>11 hours, or so, depending on traffic conditions.
You could return from Sagada by going from there to Baguio by bus (8 hours over treacherous mountain road with incredibly breathtaking views), and then Baguio to Manila (10 or so hours).
Sagada’s not an easy place to get to, but if you have a month, don’t miss it.
I love Philippines best of anywhere in SE Asia because it’s so full of variety. It’s a fantastic country with fantastic people and you can speak English there, too, which makes it easier for travel. It’s well underrated, the ppines. I reckon the rebel kidnappings and political instability have threatened its tourism industry, but I don’t mind not having to deal with scads of Euros while navigating around. Of course, they’re still around, but not in droves and droves like other parts of the region, and the ones you meet in those areas of the ppines are intrepid and pleasant enough. But not as lovely as the Filipinos.
I can recommend a really nice hotel in Manila, too, if you want. It has only five or six rooms, is done up in antiques, has a POOL!, and is an old mansion house behind a wall, so it’s like a little oasis in Manila. Last summer, rooms were 500nt or so. Besides, it’s right up the way from where all the ‘uninformed’ travellers go, Adriatico. The name used to be True Home, but it’s changed recently. I have the business card at home and will post the phone number later.